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Background and Aims: A visual analogue score (VAS), based on application of a visual analogue scale, has been widely used to assess pruritus in clinical studies of patients with cholestatic liver disease. A VAS is a numerical score of the severity of the perception of pruritus, and, hence, is inherently subjective. The objective of this study was to assess the reliability of a VAS as an index of pruritus in cholestatic patients. Methods: In 8 patients with chronic pruritus due to primary biliary cholangitis, values for a VAS of pruritus were compared with corresponding measurements of scratching activity, which were generated by a monitoring system specifically designed to quantitate this activity. The relationship between individual values for the VAS and corresponding values for scratching activity during a specific interval immediately preceding the recording of the VAS was examined by determining the Spearman's rank correlation coefficient. Results: The mean Spearman's rank correlation coefficient between individual values for the VAS and corresponding mean values for scratching activity was 0.072; the range of these coefficients was -0.04 to 0.26. A VAS of pruritus is an unreliable index of scratching activity, and, hence, of the pathophysiological process responsible for the pruritus of cholestasis. Conclusions: It is concluded that the use of a VAS as a primary quantitative endpoint in trials of the efficacy of potential therapies for the pruritus of cholestasis may be inappropriate.

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Originally published in Journal of Clinical and Translational Hepatology 2017;5(3):203-207. The original material can be found here.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License